A number of House Democrats have signed onto a letter, sent to the State Department and FBI, calling for an independent investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The letter is led by Reps. Andre Carson (D-IN) and Lou Correa (D-CA). Nearly sixty House members signed it.
This week Haaretz reported that Israel’s military police have decided not to open a criminal investigation into Abu Akleh’s death, despite the video of the killing contradicts the IDF’s original claim that the reporter was caught between gunfire. The Biden administration has condemned the killing, but they’ve also said that they trust Israel to conduct its own investigation into the event.
Text of the letter was shared by the group Americans for Peace Now. “As Members of Congress, we are deeply concerned by the death of Ms. Abu Akleh,” it reads. “Journalists worldwide must be protected at all costs. The U.S. State Department called Ms. Abu Akleh’s death ‘an affront to media freedom.’ We welcome the actions and statements taken so far by the U.S. Department of State supporting a thorough investigation by the Israeli government.”
“However, given the tenuous situation in the region and the conflicting reports surrounding the death of Ms. Abu Akleh, we request the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) launch an investigation into Ms. Abu Akleh’s death,” it continues. “We also request the U.S. Department of State determines whether any U.S. laws protecting Ms. Abu Akleh, an American citizen, were violated.”
Rep. Carson has consistently voiced support for Palestinian rights, and backs legislation aimed at holding Israel accountable for its actions, but Rep. Correa is generally a staunch supporter of the country and backed by groups like the Pro-Israel America PAC.
Signatories include Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Cori Bush (D-MO), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Marie Newman (D-IL), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Joaquin Castro (D-TX).
Today Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy echoed the recommendations of the letter in a statement. “Too often, shootings of unarmed civilians in the occupied territories have gone unpunished,” it reads. “This must not be one of those cases.”
During an Instagram Live chat on Thursday night Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) addressed Abu Akleh’s killing and openly questioned why the United States was funding the Israeli military. “We can’t even get healthcare in the United States. And we’re funding this,” she told viewers. “There has to be some sort of line that we draw, it has to stop at some point..it’s always been this political no-go zone for all parties for so long, that you’re not allowed to talk about it.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s comments are already being attacked by pro-Israel groups, who are also predictably implying that the congresswoman is antisemitic. “AOC’s claim that military aid to Israel undermines adequate healthcare in the U.S is, at best, a cheap publicity stunt and, at worst, something far more insidious,” tweeted the American Jewish Commitee.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz this week, but a readout of their talk does not mention Abu Akleh’s death at all.